Girl Scouts in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area can get a taste of what it’s like to be an electrical worker at Power Girls Camp—with the help of NECA and IBEW volunteers.
Each July, the Minneapolis and St. Paul NECA chapters, along with the Labor-Management Cooperation Committees (LMCCs) of IBEW Locals 110, 292 and 343, sponsor Electrical Day for the Girl Scouts of the Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys’ Power Girls Camp at Camp Lakamaga in St. Croix, Minn. The STEM-based camp introduces participants to different aspects of the construction industry, said Kristin Causby, assistant executive director of NECA’s Minneapolis Chapter.
“For several years, school districts had to reduce course offerings, and many programs that would introduce students to hands-on careers have been eliminated,” Causby said. “Girl Scouts of the River Valley saw an opportunity to bring these experiences to their participants through hands-on programming. These programs are offered at various times throughout the year and Power Girls Camp.”
Electrical Day introduces basic electrical concepts and includes wiring switches, lights and receptacles, she said. Additionally, this year the girls were introduced to the low-voltage aspect of the industry by working on patch cords. Electrical Day also includes aspects of safety, project management, teamwork and tool and material handling. The NECA chapters have developed a “playbook” for other chapters across the country to use if they are considering a similar program with Girl Scouts.
“We find this partnership to be a valuable way for our industry to reach girls in elementary through high school that may have never considered entering the trades as a career path,” Causby said. “Interest in our events continues to rise and classes fill very quickly, indicating there is a real desire for this type of programming, which challenges us to think about the next series of events and how we can make them different and more engaging.”
NECA and IBEW volunteers for Electrical Day include apprentices, journeymen, office professionals, business owners, trade school students, instructors and vendors.
“This was our second year in sponsoring this event, and it would not be a success without our amazing volunteers and industry partners,” she said.
The St. Paul Chapter got involved with the Girls Scouts program for a handful of reasons, said Andrew Colvard, assistant executive director. The partnership was first thought up by Linda Schroepfer, wife of former St. Paul Chapter vice president John Schroepfer, who is a strong advocate for the Girl Scouts programs and saw potential in a partnership with NECA. After discussions and presentations with the chapters’ current boards of directors, it was a unanimous decision to get involved.
“Locally, we saw low numbers among women in the electrical industry, especially in the field,” Colvard said. “The Power Girls program was already on the right track towards introducing girls to the construction industry, and NECA saw an opportunity to incorporate the electrical industry on that track—and introduce girls to the electrical industry and potential career paths towards it. Most importantly, NECA got involved to empower girls to be more than what current society may direct them to be.”
The benefits for participants of the Power Girls program are “endless,” with perhaps the most significant one being the increased confidence in themselves that can be gained through the experiences, he said. For most of the participants, it is their first-time using tools, including hammers, screwdrivers, wire strippers and even battery drills.
In an unfamiliar setting they are able to build confidence by completing tasks and projects they may have not had the opportunity to even try outside of the Power Girls program, Colvard said. Participants are also able to work on projects with women who are currently in the electrical field.
“The volunteers through this successful program have been the heartbeat to it all,” he said. “Girl Scouts and the female volunteers work hand-in-hand together, encouraging each other’s success, commitment to a field mostly dominated by men and again, confidence in themselves to pursue a career path that they themselves feel they would succeed in and enjoy.”
The relationship between the Girls Scouts and volunteers while working on the projects is what the NECA chapters and IBEW locals hope the program participants take home as the most impactful, Colvard said. “Someone they can look up to and confidently tell themselves they can succeed in the construction industry.”
Other NECA chapters and IBEW LMCCs should consider partnering with their local Girl Scout districts to offer similar programs, he said.
“Programs like these need to start now as the introduction to such a great career path is most impactful when the participants see it as a goal for themselves to succeed in, as opposed to just another job because they can’t find what they want to do,” Colvard said. “The impact goes far beyond the workforce numbers—initiatives like these provide youth a confidence they may not get to experience elsewhere along with opportunities to build relationships with the great people in our industry.”
Photos courtesy of Minneapolis Chapter of NECA.